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While having dinner with friends last week, the conversation came around to emergency food storage and, more specifically, dried beans. The consensus around the table was that beans were a great item to have stashed away in our emergency pantries but that cooking dried beans was a pain in the arse and not altogether something we wanted to do.
Well I needed to chew on that one (and no, I am not referring to tough cooked beans.) I had been harping on S.H. for awhile asking him to keep an eye out for canned bean bargains during his weekly foray to the big city. But no luck so far.
Now wait just one darn minute. I can cook beans. I know I can. Just how hard can it be?
So that is what I set out to do. I bought a one pound bag of kidney beans ($1.49) and cooked them up. It was so easy– no mess, no hassle, and I ended up with five cups of beans for the same price as a 15 oz. can of beans yielding 1 1/2 cups of beans.
How easy was it? I used the “quick soak” method described below and they were perfect.
Methods for Cooking Dried Beans
Overnight Soak Method
- Always sort through beans to remove tiny stones or debris
- Rinse well with water before adding beans to a large bowl
- Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
- Beans will be fully hydrated within 4 hours, but can soak for up to 24 hours
Quick Soak Technique
- Combine beans and water in a pot and heat to boiling
- Cook for 3 minutes
- Remove from heat, cover tightly, and set aside for an hour
- Regardless of which method you use, after their soak, drain the beans and add fresh water to a cooking pot. Bring the beans to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
- When cooking beans, use a gentle simmer. Boiling can cause the cooking liquid to overflow, as well as the beans to break apart and the skins to separate. When dried beans boil, a foam forms on the top of the cooking liquid. This foam is water-soluble protein released from the beans and it will be absorbed back into the bean cooking liquid. It is not necessary to remove the foam.
- Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork
- One pound of dried beans = 2 cups of beans = 5 to 6 cups of cooked beans, depending on the type.
- Dry beans should always be cooked in soft water or they will be tough
- You can add a pinch of baking soda to the pot if you have hard water
- Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the beans. Don’t do it.
- Add acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they slow the cooking process.
- Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
- To freeze cooked beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze.
Learning How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch
All is now well. I feel smug knowing that I can actually cook a pot of beans from scratch. If I had to, I could even do this outdoors in a fire pit. The best part is that the process was so easy that I now feel comfortable going to Costco and purchasing that 50 pound sack for $26. That works out to 52 cents a pound. Talk about a bargain.
Added bonus: A 50 pound sack of beans with some canned tomatoes, rice, and spices would go a long way towards helping us feed our unprepared neighbors if the SHTF.
But oh oh. Shelf life. Did you know that the shelf life of dried beans is typically only one year?
Time to study up and figure out how to extend that shelf life using my Food Saver, some Mylar bags, and perhaps some food grade buckets. Actually, I believe I have found the answer. Stay tuned!